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Contesting Intoxication:

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Early Juristic Debates over the Lawfulness of 
Alcoholic Beverages

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This study examines legal debates over the lawfulness of alcoholic beverages between Mālikī/Shāfi‘ī and Ḥanafī jurists. While there was an early consensus surrounding the prohibition of an intoxicating drink derived from grapes, disagreements persisted regarding intoxicants obtained from non-grape sources. The primary advocates for the prohibition of all intoxicants were Mālikī and Shāfi‘ī j­urists whose works were increasingly devoted to attacking their Ḥanafī counterparts. Mālikī critiques centered on arguments rooted in the Qurʾān, while Shāfi‘ī critiques relied on traditions from the Prophet/Companions. The Ḥanafīs argued for a narrow prohibition limited to a single drink (i.e., khamr) and forbade other drinks only if consumed to the point of intoxication. Over time, the Ḥanafīs abandoned their original position and endorsed complete prohibition due, perhaps, to the growing moral stigma associated with intoxicants. They did so by “reinterpreting” the views of one of their founding figures, Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī (d. 189/806).

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religion, Barnard College, 3009 Broadway, New York, NY 10027, USA


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